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Listener Crossword 4762 Case-sensitive by Aedites

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 26 May 2023

Thanks Aedites for your gently enjoyable reminder of the days when I knew the names of every (FCO-recognised) country and their capitals. Alas no more! Nor did I check whether you’d managed to capture a full set of equally-long country and capital names (I’m not that retentive). But anyone who can shoehorn OUAGADOUGOU into a crossword deserves a medal.

Lots of meaty, challenging clues, of which 31dn stood out: “Begin the drama and cease in the middle” (GHANA). Even when I’d got the answer from ACCRA, it took a while for the penny to drop. The biggest smile though arose from the rubric: “Some answers … are thematic and must be fully capitalised” – nice one.

My only regret is that it was over too quickly. However, hiding the instruction in a message may have made it too difficult so I’ll gratefully accept it for what it was – an enjoyable interlude on a very agreeable theme in what was otherwise a slightly pompous and very ceremonial weekend.


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Listener 4761: (Draw) Outside the Box by Arcadia

Posted by vaganslistener on 21 May 2023

Well, that was different! I like narrative preambles that don’t read like a set of computer instructions, and this one certainly met the mark.

The clues were mostly straightforward and all well-written, and the two ten-letter answers on the outside columns provided anchors for the grid fill, which went without hiccup (I think!)

The real fun started with the line-drawing. The first instruction about a square of nine cells had to be one such without bars, so in the top right or bottom left corner, and the latter clearly fitted the bill. I nearly just drew lines inside the grid until my brain clicked that only four could be used – and it was indeed the old chestnut in which the lines were extended “outside the box”. Nice one, Arcadia!

Then three sloping lines joining five six-letter words. The 5th-7th rows were going to be involved, and my answer anyway depended on the letters of the words being read, as in the bottom left corner, following the direction of the line, so that row six produced ROSSER and PERUSE, alomgside DIFFER, ENTETE and DOBBER. Neat. If I’m right…

Then under the table for one long line of 34 cells producing three entries. I wasn’t at all sure how Arcadia, or John Green, would want the hidden parts of the line to be drawn. I opted for dashed lines, with a side note saying they were “under the table”. Another option was cutting the puzzle out tightly and drawing on its back. We’ll see. Sadly I failed to count the cells correctly (a rogue bit of my brain thought the crossword was a 15×15 square: this has happened before …) and should have carrried the line on down through SELENE as well, giving ELDEST HAND, PRAIRIE OYSTER and PARASELENE, so no salver this year (but a relief as I am writing this while finding the numerical 4764 totally beyond me).

Thanks Arcadia for a puzzle that was a but different (not an easy thing to achieve), well made, and good fun too, even if I blew it.

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Outside the Box by Arcadia

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 May 2023

We know the name Arcadia because we met him in the February Magpie but this downloaded grid had us wondering – no numbers and twelve lines of preamble. Wow! We both read through that account of the feisty wife scribbling and painting all over his completed grid (and crawling under the table) and decided we hadn’t understood a thing (except that bit about the four straight lines – that is, indeed, an old chestnut). Nothing to do but solve.

Well, first colour-code the word lengths in the grid and clues. That established that those ‘Traced by Lines’ clues were going to somehow lead to answers that would have different lengths. There were only two ten-letter spaces in the grid, so nowhere for PARASELENE.

AIDE-DE-CAMP and CAREERISTS quickly and conveniently filled the two sides of the grid – fortunately in the right places, confirmed by COSE, INGA, OTIC and BAHT. There were twelve six-letter answers but seven clues. Hmmm! Where to enter DIFFER, ENTETE, ROSSER, PERUSE, and DOBBER?

Ah, and PRAIRIE OYSTERS ‘Unconventional priory’s teas involving recipe that is for hangover cures (14, two words)’. (We anagrammed PRIORY’S TEAS with R(ecipe)). That prompted me to check whether Arcadia can be admitted to the elite Listener setters’ oenophiles. No wonder he has hangovers, coping with that wife but what was he drinking? ‘Restaurant writer captures essence of Asti (6)’. Oh dear – another crossword old chestnut – that Asti. (We chose BIRO for the writer and put the ST into it giving BISTRO – that was hopeful!) ‘Note tot left when returning flask (8)’ Oh dear – underage drinking now! We returned SOH TYKE and L giving LEKYTHOS (a historical narrow-necked Greek flask – we head for Athens this week – I’d better look out for LEKYTHOI.) That word slotted neatly into our 1 across, at last giving me a real foothold in the grid which now filled speedily.

‘As you’ll hear Burgundians tell you, true white wine (7)’. We smiled at that – “Vous vrai” in our local language, here, not far from Burgundy prompted us that we needed VOUVRAY – wine from the Loire valley. No doubt now – we raised our glasses. “Santé Arcadia!”

The other Numpty disappeared to open the bottle and cook dinner (as he usually does when the grid is full) leaving me to work out those lines. No problem with the PATROLMAN, and those five six-letter words appeared when I sloped the three straight lines, with ROSSER and PERUSE reversed – sort of boustrophedonally (though I was puzzled when my grid seemed to leave an empty cell at the end of what must become DOBBERS-IN). I had a little more difficulty understanding what she was doing under the table to link ELDEST HAND, PRAIRIE OYSTERS and PARASELENE. I decided she must be linking those words by writing on the rear of the grid. Then finally, what was on that paintbrush? Black paint? Did she delete those last two columns? Probably not, I decided, since we were instructed to send our grid ‘with all the letters’. Original, thank you, and a lovely debut, Arcadia but we hope you’ve got that wife under control before your next one.

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Listener 4761 Outside the Box by Arcadia

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 19 May 2023

Thanks Arcadia for an original puzzle which turned out to less scary than its preamble would lead us to believe. Indeed, for me, once I’d found the 10-letter answers and all but about 5 of the others, it was relatively easy to fill in the grid – the delectable jam between the variably challenging clue-solving and the chewy endgame.

Clues varied from easy (ERICA & MARAS) to distinctly tricky (PATROLMAN, SLATER & IRATELY) via clues like “Eg Ayckbourn’s characters in farcical antics” “(ALAN), which, like his plays, raised a smile.

As ever, there was some spectacular straying from the path on my part:

  • On Yorkshire moor, without Asian bread: BAR+A = BARA
  • Promotion seekers – CANDIDATES, surely?
  • Mobile helpers – people in call centres came to mind

Even when it became obvious that -AHT had to be BAHT, BARA clashed with PARASELENE and CANDIDATES couldn’t possibly be correct as it clashed with the rock-solid MARAS, resolving these clues took a while.

Then came the lines. I spotted the 5 6-letter entries (DIFFER, ENTETE, ROSSER, PERUSE and DOBBER fairly quickly. ELDEST HAND, PRAIRIE OYSTERS and PARASELENE also fell into place, but how to draw a “straight” line? I must admit, a line that turns through several vertical right angles in order to continue on the underside of the table challenges my concept of a “straight” line! But then, 3D visualisation has never been my strong point.

The Irishman and his “mobile helper” eluded me completely, so I resorted to grid-staring to find the 9-dot 4-line problem (which mercifully I remembered how to solve). I knew it had to have an L in it so it didn’t take me that long to reverse engineer PATROLMAN from ANT-MAR-PLO. PAT + L in ROMAN, obvious when you have the answer!

Finally, I hope that my 2 chosen columns are the only ones that contain 3 words (there are a few contenders for that) whilst leaving real words. Outside the Box has exhausted my cruciverbal reserves!

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Listener 4760: (Who’d Bee a) Queen by Rebel

Posted by vaganslistener on 12 May 2023

A warm welcome back to Rebel, aka Nick Hay, who last appeared in the Listener series in 2007 with no. 3947 “King”. Do we sense a theme here? That one was about Kafka – but … well, you never know, but the grid looks more like a honeycomb to me. Apart from that, though, the prelims didn’t give anything more away that I could see. 

And what were the two pre-filled cells all about? I have to admit that I still don’t know. I wondered if they were needed to resolve ambiguities in what must have been a tricky grid to set up, though I didn’t identify any. (On the grid, QXW has a hexagonal feature that was perhaps deployed but it would have needed all the entries to be “free lights” I think – quite beyond me.) The requirement for mirror symmetry covered the potential issues of the adjacent Os in column 2 and Ss in column 4 where an unspecified blank could have been left – and I did set off thinking I would try and keep track of the symmetry, but it was beyond me again as it wasn’t just a matter of bars but of overlapping clue-trails. Perhaps Shirley managed it with her coloured pencils. I must ask her. (EDIT: she did!)

Anwyay, it was time to get solving. This was a slow one, as being able to see and visualise the shape of the emerging word is a great help to me, and my varifocals didn’t like jumping around the grid to see where a word might be going. So it was mostly cold-solving at first, with serious filling only going on when I had got quite a lot of answers, and especially the ones that made up the frame. In Magpie grading terms the lack of specificity about location plus the letters latent upped the difficulty level, and there were some quite unusual words too. I hadn’t heard of the weaselly relatives the BEEECH MARTENS, a BOLD BOW at the front of a vessel, or EMPTYSIS for spitting blood, which did rather delay that frame. And as for the Canadian artist Ethel SEATH, the Wikipedia list of Canadian artists omits her, and a Safari search on “Canadian artist Seath” doesn’t find her and offers “… Death” instead (though oddly “artist Seath” does work. I rather like her work.

That clue was obviously one of the last I solved. Others that taxed me were 17a “Nurses within borders of Dungeness” (5) = <M>INDS where I missed the obvious “within” = IN while looking for more complicated answers; and 33a “Snatch camouflaged crystal in cells” (7) = RAPHID<E>, where neither RAP for “snatch” and HID for “camouflaged” came quickly to mind, and RAPHIDE was totally new to me. The trickiest part though, as I said earlier, was not solving the clues but just getting my eye in to how they were being entered, and while a glass of red helps with some puzzles this was one where it didn’t and the morning light was needed to wrap things up properly.

That left the endgame, and how to use the messages WAY IN TOP MID BEES DEFLECTING and TITLE BEE CORE OCCUPIERS. A honeycomb it was and once the penny dropped that it was the letter Bs that were doing the deflecting, a path was soon found that spelled out ERASE PATH TO ROYAL CELL, with the “title bee” QB in the cell of the last L, which was the central or core cell of the grid.

So why were the cells S and L pre-filled? I shall have to wait for a setter’s or other solver’s blog to find out.  Meanwhile, many thanks to Rebel for a novel puzzle and a good challenge.

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